My home was filled with yelling and tears for the last two days. My husband and I have been desperately trying to communicate with our son and it is extremely challenging. My son is incredibly intelligent and determined and that doesn’t always align with what our plans are. Normally we’ve been pretty good about coping when things go awry and coaching each other through helping our son navigate the tough stuff. But we collapsed the last couple of days and neither one of us could manage. I know kids are resilient but I always worry that we are impacting him. I felt like I failed as a parent.
I love my kid and I see so much of both my husband and myself in him. I try to remind myself that the parts of my boy that set me off are the parts of myself that I need to work on. As a recovering control freak (who am I kidding, I’m still fighting that battle) it’s hard to allow a four year old to run the show. It’s hard to tell what I can let go of and what needs to be addressed. He is four so of course he needs limits and guidance—but he is his own person and I don’t want to hinder that. Yet everything from picking up toys to leaving the house in the morning is a fight. Maybe this is all completely normal, but I have internalized it on some level because I know he is trying to express himself and I don’t want him to feel like something is wrong with him.
I have read a lot of books about failure. I know failure is not who you are, it’s not who I am. It’s an event, not a character flaw. It’s a sign of being human. If we were meant to have it all figured out there would be a manual somewhere and there most certainly is not. People have tried to make books on the subject but being human is such a tricky thing that no one has ever managed to capture the whole thing. Maybe this is just a bad moment, and because I’m a fixer, I’m making demands for an explanation that even fully grown adults can’t put into words. I know I can’t always explain what’s going on. I guess it’s about learning grace and having patience.
I made the choice at five years old to not add any undue stress to my parent’s lives (that’s another story) and I remember the moment it happened. From then on I became the dutiful daughter, always doing as I was told. I placed the expectation of fully understanding people’s emotions and expectations on my son and my husband—and everyone in my life to tell the truth. That is no ones burden to carry, I was wrong. My son is his own person and has the right to go through his own learning curve and make his own decisions even if they upset me.
So while these past few days have been rough, they have also been a learning experience. Being forced to sit with my actions and to recognize the patterns of a lifetime have shown me that sometimes failing really is a lesson. I spoke about compassion the other day and this is a reminder that sometimes we have to show ourselves compassion as well. Myself included. We will not always get it right and sometimes we will hurt people. It’s the recovery and the integration that matters—not the failure. The first two days of this month I have spoken of compassion and self-love: redefining failure and showing compassion to ourselves is a courageous act of self-love. I can say I tried my best, and now I know better.